Work day ends in tragedy
By MIKE BRASSFIELD
CLEARWATER -- It was a perfectly ordinary Saturday afternoon when Pam Saraceno arrived for her shift waiting tables at Country Harvest, a restaurant her brother owns.
Moments later, her estranged husband walked in. The two argued in the restaurant, then moved the argument outside.
There, police say, Mike Saraceno shot his wife in the head.
He fled. An Ohio tourist who had been in the restaurant performed CPR on the wounded woman in the parking lot. Then, for an anxious hour, her co-workers and her brother, restaurant owner Jim Trizis, waited for word from the hospital.
Trizis got a phone call. He picked up the receiver and listened.
"She's dead," he announced, and broke into tears.
Pam Saraceno, 35, was shot about 4 p.m. outside Country Harvest, a family restaurant at 1285 S Missouri Ave., in a strip mall south of downtown Clearwater. Although the restaurant was busy, customers inside apparently did not see the shooting.
Mike Saraceno, 40, of Oldsmar, sped away in his van after the shooting but soon turned himself in, calling the police from a Hess gas station at U.S. 19 and Harn Boulevard. He handed over a gun. He is charged with first-degree murder.
The Saracenos married in 1998 but had split up.
Pam Saraceno comes from a restaurant family. Her father and brothers have owned various local eateries.
The family was devastated Saturday.
"It blew my mind," Trizis said. "It came out of nowhere."
Restaurant employees said Pam Saraceno, a waitress, arrived for work shortly before 4 p.m., and Mike Saraceno appeared within minutes. He had repeatedly called, asking when she would be in. The two got into an intense discussion.
"They're talking. He starts getting irate," recalled cook Robert Lee. "He's talking about how he's going to flee town, like he's in trouble. He's going to go to Boston. She wants her pictures or something."
At that point, Mike Saraceno walked out, said assistant manager Jim Pappas. Then Pam Saraceno told Pappas that she was stepping outside as well.
A busboy heard the gunshot. He looked outside and saw Pam Saraceno on the ground. He frantically alerted the other workers, who ran outside.
Pappas ran out and saw Mike Saraceno's van speeding away. He saw Pam Saraceno lying next to her car, about 50 feet from the restaurant's front door. She was bleeding from her head.
Tourist Allen Frye performed CPR. A BayFlite helicopter landed in a sports bar's parking lot across the street and airlifted Pam Saraceno to Bayfront Medical Center. But it was too late. She was pronounced dead soon after arriving at the hospital.
Cooks and servers stood together around the restaurant's front counter, trying to come to grips with what had happened.
"She was a fantastic person," Pappas said, shaking his head. "Very nice, a good worker. A fantastic person."
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